LAND O'LAKES — The list of candidates for Pasco County School Board continues to swell.
Two local educators — one current, one retired — have added their names to the growing list of hopefuls, bringing the total to 14 people running for four open seats. Only District 1 incumbent Allen Altman has yet to field a challenge.
The two latest aspirants for the school district's policy-making board are retired River Ridge High School principal J. Steven Luikart and Gulf High School special education teacher George Brazier. They have both filed papers to pursue election to District 5, which represents northwest Pasco County.
Incumbent Frank Parker has announced he will not seek re-election to the District 5 seat. Two other residents — Donna Munsen and Laura Semer — also are seeking the position. Hotel sales director Karen King recently switched her candidacy from this seat to District 4, which incumbent Kathryn Starkey is leaving to run for Florida House District 45.
Five other candidates have prefiled for Starkey's seat. Three are in the running for the District 3 seat being vacated by incumbent Cathi Martin.
Luikart, a 32-year Pasco teacher and administrator before his 2008 retirement, said he believes his time in the schools provides him a perspective that could benefit the district as it works through some tough financial times.
"Budget cuts are looming," Luikart said. "My intent is to make sure that the classroom stays as untouched as possible."
He added that his commitment to the county runs deep. His family moved here in 1912, and he's a Gulf High graduate along with many other family members. Now his grandchildren are in the system.
"I have a stake in this community, this county," said Luikart, who ran unsuccessfully for Mosquito Control Board in 2008. "I want to see it prosper and head in the right direction. … I think I can bring something to the table."
Brazier grew up in Tampa and moved to Pasco County in the 1990s. He joined the Pasco County school district as a teacher in 1996, he said, "because it was a progressive district and it always put the kids first."
He has four school-age children and a wife who oversees elementary school counseling for the district, so Brazier said he has a stake in seeing the schools continue to make educational advances.
And as a teacher, Brazier added that he has a strong understanding of what the front-line employees need and want from their employer.
"I'm not a politician," he said. "I want to make a difference at the local level. I think I can bring perspective from both sides."
Qualifying for the nonpartisan School Board races begins June 14 and ends June 18. The election is Aug. 24. If no one wins a majority in the primary election, the top two vote-getters will head to a Nov. 2 general election.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.